Irish moss (Chondrus chrispus), also known as carrageen moss (or simply carrageen), or sea moss, is a species of reddish algae that is packed full of nutrients and has a variety of functions in the health and beauty industries. It grows naturally on the Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America and is also cultivated for commercial purposes.
Carrageen comes from the Irish word carraigín meaning ‘little rock’ after the rocks that the moss grows on. It has a strong local history in Ireland. In Irish folklore the moss was carried on trips for protection and good luck. During the Irish Potato Famine of 1846 -1848 it was eaten as a nutrient-rich source during a time of severe food scarcity. It became known as the ‘poverty food’ and had a fall from grace due to its association with hardship, but has recently become popular again and even risen to ‘superfood’ status because of its nutrient rich composition.
Traditionally, Irish moss is used as a remedy for colds, flu, tuberculosis and pneumonia. Sea moss contains potassium chloride which helps dissolve phlegm and mucus and eases congestion. It is a natural expectorant.
Irish moss contains 92 minerals as well as protein, beta-carotene, B vitamins, pectin, vitamin C and sulphur. One of the more interesting of these nutrients is an amino acid called taurine - a nutrient that is often lacking in vegetarian and vegan diets. It is also rich in magnesium, zinc, iodine and iron.
An excellent immune boosting and recovery food, sea moss contains a high vitamin and mineral content to revitalise the body after illness.
Irish moss has been shown to help balance thyroid hormones due to its high iodine content.
Studies have also shown potential for sea moss to be used in anti-neurodegenerative medication, as well as assisting with Parkinson’s Disease.
Sea moss absorbs moisture which increases its volume, and contains a lot of fibre. It may also have a mild laxative effect. Its iodine content can help boost the metabolism by kickstarting a sluggish thyroid. All these properties combined may assist in weight loss.
Irish sea moss contains citrulline-arginine which is an amino acid compound. It encourages cell growth and metabolism and helps protect the skin by releasing arginine and citrulline, amino acids that are essential for protein and collagen synthesis in the skin and hair. Citrulline-arginine is also recommended for the prevention and improvement of skin aging.
Sea moss is a skin softener, and it supports the skin’s natural moisture barrier. It is richly hydrating and the gel made from it makes for a fabulous skin and hair mask (see recipes below).
Irish sea moss is also antibacterial and antimicrobial, which assists in balancing the skin’s microbiome. A high sulphur content also helps decrease excessive sebum production
As a drink:
First rinse your dried Irish moss, then boil for 10-15 minutes in water or milk, strain and drink. You can add flavourings if desired.
Irish sea moss can also be made into a gel which has various purposes. To make the gel, first thoroughly rinse the dried sea moss, then soak it in a bowl of spring or distilled water for 12-24 hours to hydrate it. You can use the soaking water to make the gel, or you can discard it and use fresh water. Add 1 cup water and ½ cup hydrated sea moss to a blender and blend until smooth, about 1-3 minutes. You can add additional water to change the consistency if desired. Then transfer to a container and store in the fridge for up to a month.
The gel can be added to drinks or smoothies, taken on a spoon as a supplement, made into a salad dressing, or used as a thickening agent. It can also be decanted into an ice cube tray and frozen for future use.
The plain dried moss can be rinsed and added to salads, soups or stews.
Carrageenan is a gelling agent and thickener that is commercially harvested from carrageen. It is a vegan alternative to gelatin. Carrageen and carrageenan are two separate products however.
In personal care, the gel can be used as a face mask or as a hair mask, and incorporated into skincare products.
The gel can also be added to your watering can for watering plants. It will provide the plants with boatloads of nutrition!
Ultimate Sea Moss Face Mask
This facial mask is packed full of vitamins, minerals and all of nature’s nutrition.
1-2 T sea moss gel, preprepared
½ tsp chlorella powder
½ tsp spirulina powder
½ tsp maca powder
½ tsp kelp powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp bentonite clay
Mix all the dried powders and the clay together, then add the sea moss gel and blend to a paste. Apply to a clean face, avoiding the eye area. Leave on for 15 minutes then rinse off with warm water and apply a moisturiser.
Sea Moss Hair Gel
Take all of the nutrients of sea moss to your hair and scalp with a hair gel. For moisture and hydration, scalp soothing and hair shine, sea moss gel is a wonder treatment. This hair gel can be used as a pre-shampoo routine, deep conditioner or as a styling gel.
A hair gel is easily customisable so feel free to add in extras such as more water, aloe vera gel, oils or essential oils, hydrosols or other botanical infusions. You can also add in conditioning agents such as panthenol, keratin, marine collagen or hydrolyzed wheat protein.
½ cup sea moss gel, preprepared (you may require more or less gel, depending on the volume of hair)
Up to 1 c of extra ingredients: feel free to add in anything you like!
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